Review by Alyx Jones
Developer: Queasy Games
Composers: Shaw-Han Liem, Jonathan Mak, Jim Guthrie, Deadmau5, Beck
Reviewed on: Playstation 4
Sound Shapes is a cute 2D platformer adventure, with a focus on creating and sharing levels. The reason we love it so much is because it places a strong emphasis on the musical side of things!
In the game, you can collect small shapes that each represent a small section of the track. As you play through the level, the more shapes you collect, the more the track is revealed to you. The levels feature a breakdown section, often giving the player a break from monsters/threats, before building the track and levelling up to their conclusion.
Shaw-Han Liem and Jonathan Mak came together to work on Sound Shapes, having known each other from attending the same university. Liem usually performs under the alias “I am Robot and Proud” as an indie/electronic artist based in Toronto, Canada.
The general art aesthetic of the game, is simple and pretty. I think the music reflects this by using a mix of synthesized sounds with happy melodies on instruments like a banjo in various levels. Some levels definitely feature a stronger emphasis on electronic sounds, whereas those with more organic graphics, such as plants, flowers and suns, rely more on real sounding instruments. As the level difficulty increases throughout the game, the music increases in tempo and is more upbeat in style.
For Sound Shapes, the sound design is a really important part of the gameplay, as it somewhat merges with the music having to work tightly as part of a music-oriented game. The plant sound effects near the start of the game remind me of the sound Sonic used to make in the classic games when an enemy stung him. For me, the sound design is reminiscent of some older classic games, the same as the gameplay in places, but it still manages to sound polished and in keeping with the entire game.
Jim Guthrie is responsible for the more industrial looking, office block levels. The sound design here becomes a part of the music in terms of objects/actions such as scanners, printers, the workers drinking coffee synchronising with the beat of the track or indeed creating the beat. It uses a sample based approach to incorporating real sounds into the music, in a similar way to artists like “Scanner”.
Deadmau5 also contributed songs and sound material to certain levels. Of course, as with every level, the amount of the track you hear is up to you as a player to collect more shapes. However, I found the Deadmau5 levels pretty satisfying even without collecting all the shapes. The main Deadmau5 level features similar mechanics to the classic arcade game “Breakout” to collect 5 main parts of the track,. However, the whole level features 66 musical collectables!
Beck also has his album available through the game and features songs in the cityscape levels. Being well known in the alternative rock genre it’s no surprise that the level sounds very different to the main campaign. The art style also has a twist to reflect this change of audio with the main colour palette featuring reds and greys. The level has words appear such as “ahhhh” in time with the music that can be jumped on by the player but disappear when the lyrics are no longer being sung in the track. It’s a really quirky way to pair up music and gameplay so tightly that the player can’t progress in the game without the “lyrics bubble” appearing.
Overall, it’s a really lovely, fun game. The only downfall is that you can’t import your own music to use within the level creator. Never mind eh!
Sound Shapes is our pick of the month, and FREE for those of you with a PS+ membership. Definitely worth checking out!!
To see me playing Sound Shapes click here:
The Sound Architect